Date of this Version
Neuropharmacology. 2017 July 15; 121: 111–119. doi:10.1016/j.neuropharm.2017.04.026.
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable deaths worldwide. This habit is not only debilitating to individual users but also to those around them (second-hand smoking). Nicotine is the main addictive component of tobacco products and is a moderate stimulant and a mild reinforcer. Importantly, besides its unconditional effects, nicotine also has conditioned stimulus effects that may contribute to the tenacity of the smoking habit. Because the neurobiological substrates underlying these processes are virtually unexplored, the present study investigated the functional involvement of the dorsomedial caudate-putamen (dmCPu) in learning processes with nicotine as an interoceptive stimulus. Rats were trained using the discriminated goal-tracking task where nicotine injections (0.4 mg/kg; SC), on some days, were paired with intermittent (36 per session) sucrose deliveries; sucrose was not available on interspersed saline days. Pre-training excitotoxic or post-training transient lesions of anterior or posterior dmCPu were used to elucidate the role of these areas in acquisition or expression of associative learning with nicotine stimulus. Pre-training lesion of p-dmCPu inhibited acquisition while post-training lesions of p-dmCPu attenuated the expression of associative learning with the nicotine stimulus. On the other hand, post-training lesions of a-dmCPu evoked nicotine-like responding following saline treatment indicating the role of this area in disinhibition of learned motor behaviors. These results, for the first time, show functionally distinct involvement of a- and p-dmCPu in various stages of associative learning using nicotine stimulus and provide an initial account of neural plasticity underlying these learning processes.